Interfaith Action Network Monthly
June 2021

Ready, Set, Action
Summer is here, and New York is heating up, and OPENING up! While the city has been taking measured steps to slowly return to pre-COVID living, the Fair Housing Justice Center has been busier than ever with legal work, policy advocacy, investigations, and more. Here’s a look at what we’ve been up to.
Below are some educational resources we recommend for you to learn more about fair housing.
FHJC investigations are meant to expose illegal discriminatory actions by landlords, real estate agents, and others in the housing industry. But what about other practices, perfectly legal ones, that contribute to keeping our neighborhoods segregated? Our book recommendation this month is Upsold: Real Estate Agents, Prices, and Neighborhood Inequality by sociologist Max Besbris. Using extensive, detailed interviews with agents and buyers, as well as direct tag-along observations as they make their rounds, Besbris shows how agents successfully upsell, inducing buyers to spend more than their initially stated price ceilings. His research reveals how face-to-face interactions influence buyers’ ideas about which locations are desirable and which are less-worthy investments. Upsold shows how these preferences ultimately produce elite and exclusive neighborhoods whose aspiring residents can expect ever-rising housing prices, shutting out more and more potential buyers in a cycle of deepening economic and racial segregation.

Spring has seen a flurry of legal activity at the FHJC, including:

  • In April, a key settlement in a design and construction case against a group of major developers and others, including The Rabsky Group LLC was reached. In addition to $950,000 in monetary relief, the settlement calls for extensive retrofits in several large apartment buildings, and the construction of 85 housing units to be built in accordance with the Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (“UFAS”).
  • In May, the FHJC filed a federal lawsuit against assisted living facility owner/operator Vista on 5th Corporation, alleging that Vista’s “no wheelchairs” policy violates the Fair Housing Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and other laws.
  • The FHJC reached a settlement in its long-running racial discrimination lawsuit against the Town of Eastchester on June 1st. The suit alleged discriminatory residency preferences in the Town’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program and zoning code.
  • On June 2nd, the FHJC announced that L. Smith, an African American mother and licensed medical health professional, had filed a fair housing lawsuit in the U.S. District Court (SDNY). The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Smith’s application for an apartment in a City-financed affordable housing development was rejected because of a blanket policy on criminal conviction records that illegally denies housing to qualified applicants.
  • And most recently, a settlement was reached June 7th in a disability discrimination lawsuit brought against landlord 2020 Grand Realty, LLC by Ms. Debora Ramirez, the primary caregiver of an adult daughter who has multiple physical disabilities. The lawsuit was supported by research funded by the FHJC’s Adele Friedman Housing Accessibility Fund.
Time to get out and advocate in your community! Below are some advocacy updates and ways that you can get involved.
Since December, we’ve been writing about the fair housing legislative package that had been introduced in Albany. The bills were written in the wake of the Newsday story Long Island Divided, in which the FHJC played an integral role. The State Senate passed twelve of the bills last February, but with the legislative session winding down, it was unclear how many, if any, would be passed in the Assembly.

Finally, in the waning hours of the final day of the session, seven of the bills were passed and are now awaiting Governor Cuomo’s signature to become law. Shout out to FHJC Policy Coordinator Britny McKenzie, who, along with our partner organizations in the New York Fair Housing Network, worked closely with legislators to get the bills through both houses. The package covers a broad range of fair housing enforcement issues, including increased funding for testing and training, establishing the State’s obligation to affirmatively further fair housing, and updating real estate companies’ policies and procedures. Click HERE for more detail on the legislation, along with links to register your support for the bills.
Building the Beloved Community
Want to get involved in the Building the Beloved Community interfaith initiative in some other way? Below are some updates from our interfaith initiative.
The FHJC is a proud member of The Bridges Collaborative - a new, first-of-its-kind school integration initiative powered by The Century Foundation. From all across the country, leaders of 27 school districts, 17 charter schools and CMOs, and 13 housing organizations are coming together to share resources and information as we work to reignite a nationwide movement for integrated schools and diverse neighborhoods. This year, the Collaborative is sponsoring a student contest to shed light on the history of segregation and to propose potential solutions. K-12 students are invited to submit a creative project of their choosing (such as a written, audio, video or other media presentation) that explores the topic of segregation in the community where they live. Themes may include racial, economic, housing, or school segregation, or the intersection of any of these. Multiple cash prizes are available for various different age groups, and winners will have the opportunity to share their ideas with a network of leaders and policymakers. Submission deadline is Wednesday, June 30, at 11:59 PM PT. Click HERE for more information.
It’s been just over a year since the brutal murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Office Derek Chauvin. Last month, the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service brought together a diverse group of Milwaukeeans to reflect on societal changes from the past year. Among those interviewed was William R. Tisdale, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, and longtime friend of the FHJC. In his comments, Tisdale reminds us that the work for justice can take many paths, and uses the words of the Talmud to encourage us to take the long view in working for justice: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” Read the entire article HERE.
"Only the narrow minded discriminate against the other by saying:
this one is my own; the other is a stranger.

For those who live contemplatively
the entire world constitutes but one family"
- Mopanishad VI 72.
Fair Housing Justice Center | 30-30 Northern Blvd., Suite 302, Long Island City, NY 11101
| (212) 400 - 8201 | (212) 400 - 8203 |